By Jonathan Givony, for NBA.com
Posted May 19 2009 4:22PM
NEW YORK CITY -- Sitting in a posh hotel in Midtown Manhattan, getting ready for a slew of marketing opportunities lined up by his newly signed agent Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management, Blake Griffin ponders the future that the ping-pong balls will decide for him Tuesday night.
"I'm anxious, but at the same time, nothing is set in stone," Griffin said. "Just because you have the teams in order doesn't mean you are going here or there. It's definitely exciting to see about the possible places."
A 6-9 super athletic power forward who led college basketball in rebounding and helped take his team to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, Griffin has drawn comparisons ranging from Carlos Boozer to David Lee to Amar'e Stoudemire thanks to the toughness and intensity he brings to the table.
Although Griffin may not be so quick to concede that he's the odds-on favorite to be drafted first overall, it appears highly unlikely that a team would risk passing on such a dominating inside presence.
"Tomorrow night kind of holds the excitement away, you don't know what's happening," Griffin said. "I don't know where I am going to be over the next few years, or however long. Tomorrow night is a nervous kind of thing. "
The glamour of New York isn't lost on the always straight-forward Griffin, and when asked, he doesn't hide the appeal he finds in landing in a major media market like New York or Los Angeles.
"Definitely. I would love to play in a big city like that."
Still, he's not planning on being picky if a team from a smaller city wants to take him.
"The market is great and all that," Griffin explains, "but besides that there are a lot of other great cities besides New York and L.A. There are a lot of great opportunities with teams that could possibly get it."
His hometown team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, have an 11.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick, but from the sound of it, Griffin won't be shedding any tears if they were unable to move up.
"I think it would be a good situation, but at the same time, I've been in Oklahoma my entire life," Griffin said. "I have a spot in my heart for Oklahoma obviously growing up there and living there my entire life, but I wouldn't mind getting out and seeing different stuff. "
There is a lot more baggage that comes along with being the top overall pick than just the money and fame, and Griffin already appears to have a plan to help deal with the incredible scrutiny that is bound to come his way.
"That's what I'm working on right now," Griffin said. "It's a never-ending process, for me trying to get better and try to make myself more skilled so I can become the player that I want to be. I'm not going to worry about it -- there have been guys before me that have handled it just fine. Those are the guys that I want to emulate, the guys I want to learn from."
Despite the intense national pressure that goes hand in hand with being anointed the face of an NBA franchise, Griffin doesn't plan on letting the pressure affect him.
"In my mind, whether I go No. 1 or I go No. 60, I'm still the same player," he said. "It doesn't matter. Going No. 1 doesn't make me a better player. It's all about what I do with it, how I handle it. How I handle my business. I'm not going to let anything that people are saying affect me or affect my game."
Griffin says that it really doesn't matter to him whether he goes first or second in this draft, especially if it appears he's a better match for the team drafting second and he can win faster.
"Winning is definitely a priority for me," Griffin explained. "It really just depends who is where. There could be a really good team at No. 2 or there could be a really good team at No. 1 and it just kind of depends on where it falls and it's all about having a good fit and trying to fit into the system, wherever that system may be. "
Moving on to the topic of the specific destinations the ping-pong balls could lead him to tomorrow, Griffin was understandably cautious when asked about his thoughts on the prospects of playing for Sacramento, the team with the worst record in the NBA.
"Obviously they had a down year," Griffin said of the Kings. "They have players. They have players that are good. It's all about me fitting into the system and help make the team better."
The Washington Wizards are apparently thinking about trading their pick, but they may reconsider if the 17.8 percent chance of landing the top overall pick comes to fruition. Griffin, for his part, doesn't think they are too far off.
"Obviously they have a lot of talent for their record," Griffin said. "Last year they had so much talent. Not having Gilbert Arenas pretty much all season. Obviously that hurt them a lot. They are a great team and they can be a great team next year just by getting their guys back. "
Thankfully for Griffin, as well as the other top players expected to round out the top five -- namely Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden and Jordan Hill -- Tuesday's lottery will be a vital piece to the puzzle in helping to determine where they may end up June 25. Look for teams to begin scheduling workouts with all the major candidates and really shift their NBA draft preparation into top gear.
Jonathan Givony is President and Director of Scouting of Draft Express. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer.
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